I've noticed that these kinds of rhythms seem to be extremely common in popular music:

X: 1
M: 4/4
L: 1/16
K: C
c3c3c2 c3c3c2|c3c3c3c3c2c2|

The example in the first bar appears to be a 2 over 3 polyrhythm followed by an eighth note, and the second bar is a 4 over 3 polyrhythm followed by two eighth notes.

I've been told that hemiola describes any 2 against 3 polyrhythm, but this doesn't "feel" like one to me, since I've almost always seen it used to refer to this kind of rhythm instead:

X: 2
M: 9/8
K: Fm alto
(L=B=A)(L^G =G)(L^F=F) (L=E/^D/=D/C/=B,/=A,/)|
X: 3
M: 3/4
L: 1/4
K: Fm alto
z [C,CAf] z | [C,CAf] z [C,CAf] |

In these examples (from Tchaikovsky's 4th), 3 notes are played in the space of 2, rather than 2 (or 4) in the space of 3.

Could the latter case also be referred to as hemiola? If not, does it have a standard name in general? Since the particular arrangements of 3-3-2 and 3-3-3-3-2-2 (shown above) are so common, do they have a specific name as well?

  • See also How do I describe the rhythm in these songs?
    – Richard
    Jun 27, 2019 at 15:44
  • @Richard Ah, thanks, that's exactly what I was looking for. I guess there's no standard name for the 4 over 3 variant - maybe "extended tresillo" will have to do? Or perhaps "seisillo" :)
    – Doorknob
    Jun 27, 2019 at 15:56


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